Sophomore, Emi McCullough, shares her personal connection to the Japanese Internment Camps and how they connect to the current events in China.
Emi McCullough ‘22: Throughout history, people of a certain race or religion were imprisoned against their will for no reason other than people fearing them, or the plain reason of just not liking them. This continuously happened many times throughout our history, a horrendous pain to think about. What kind of human deserves to be unrightfully imprisoned by another human? In the year of 2019 most people think something like this could not be happening in the world today, but yes, in 2019 things like this continue to happen to people on this planet. Today in China, 1.5 million Muslims have been put in concentration camps. The Chinese believe they’re civilizing them, teaching them to be proper. China wants to stop the Muslim population growth in their country, and the methods they use put your stomach in your throat, most too graphic to talk about. It reminds people of the concentration camps the Nazi’s developed, the Native American Genocide, and even the Japanese internment camps in the United States. People today still find this topic too unreal to believe. Listening to stories from those who experienced these brutal events, makes you wonder how someone could be so cruel to another human being solely based on their race, religion, or beliefs.
Yuckie Thompson, formerly Miyamoto, a child in 1942, a Japanese American living with her family in California. In the mail her family received a letter telling them the news about the relocation to the camps. The letter said they needed to sell all their stuff immediately, they got to keep very little. She knew little about the camps, never expecting to live there for three years. Her parents sold everything until there was nothing left, but the necessities for them to live. Forced to sell his own company, her father decided to trust his white American neighbor. His neighbor offered to take in the company in his name until he got back from the camps. Unfortunately, her father never got his company back. His neighbor put it under his name and that was final. Yuckie never understood most of this, until years later, when she truly understood the struggles her family endured.
“We lived in a wooden shack, me and my whole family. Everything in there was made of wood even our homemade wine barrel tub,” Yuckie Thompson said.
Sent to Detroit in an effort to make money, her father left the camp while the rest of the family stayed. A garden glass company, one of the few places giving jobs to Japanese to support their families in the camp, gave him a place to earn a paycheck. Every week he sent over his check to his family, so they were able to buy some food in the one general store the camp possessed.
The children still went to school, transported by army buses every time. For fun, they traveled to the mountains and collected extra wood to bring back to their shack and make things out of them.
“We would climb the mountains and find spare wood and take it back home and make things out of them, including shelves and pencil holders,” Thompson said.
Their community held small get-togethers, performing traditional japanese dances for entertainment. Because nothing changed, they all tried to make the best of things. These people only lived in these communities because the American people feared them and lacked trust toward them. Because of that, they put them in a secure area, watching them 24/7.
“They thought any one that was Japanese were spies and not to be trusted, that we were evil and traders,” Yuckie Thompson said.
For three years, people like Yuckie Miyamoto lost their freedom, traitors in the eyes of Americans. About 2⁄3 Japanese people sent to these camps were born in America, citizens of the country. Yuckie, too little to understand living in a camp or what happened to her family at the time, understood more as she grew older. The experience she went through upsets her, but she got through it. She must not dwell on the past, but focus on her future and make the best for herself.
When they moved to Detroit after the war, they got a fresh start and created new memories there. Something about having your freedom stripped away really affects a person. It creates memories that they will never forget, and those can’t be taken away.
About 40 years later, every person located in the camps received $20,000 each. A small price to pay for such a devastating event.
“A couple decades later we received a check for 20,000 each for being in the camps. But no amount of money could bring back my childhood, or change the past,” Thompson said.
Although offered a good amount of money that helps some greatly, nothing makes up for the things they lost and the way America treated them.
You’d think by now, learning about things like this would stop people from acting with hate towards others, yet it continues. For example, in China they’re imprisoning Muslims just for the fact of their beliefs. Speak out against injustice, and make an effort to be kind to all. Something needs to change. These atrocities can not continue to happen.